Australian Hayne living the American dream

Sun Sep 6, 2015 4:48am EDT
 
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Jarryd Hayne thanked God in his first tweet after learning that he had made the final roster for the San Francisco 49ers, bringing him within tantalizing reach of his NFL dream.

As a 27-year-old rugby league player with no prior experience of American football, the Australian's mission to defy the soul-crushing odds would truly seem touched by the divine.

"Crazy," was his astonished manager's response last year when Hayne spoke of walking away from a wildly successful career in Australia's National Rugby League competition.

His manager's skepticism was shared by many in the sports-mad nation where Hayne tearfully announced in October he would leave home-town Sydney and his long-time club, the Parramatta Eels, to pursue an improbable American dream.

Few Australians follow NFL closely, but plenty are aware of the glitz of the Super Bowl, the eye-popping player salaries and the cut-throat nature of American sports.

A big fish in his small home pond, Hayne would head to the United States a bottom-feeder, though one endowed with extraordinary talent and a fierce determination.

Less than two percent of the 70,000 players at American colleges can hope for a professional career but like a typical California dreamer, Hayne felt he had nothing to lose.

"I didn't feel like (my career) was challenging me to the point where I'll now be challenged," he said before jetting off.   Continued...

 
San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne (38) runs with the football against San Diego Chargers defensive back Johnny Lowdermilk (42) during the third quarter in a preseason game at Levi's Stadium.  Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports